The ECOWAS Court has ordered the immediate release by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, of two inmates of the Enugu prison in the country’s South East who had been on death row for 23 years following their 1995 conviction by a military tribunal for armed robbery.

 Gabriel Inyang and Linus Iyeme,  were ordered to be released on Friday, 29th June 2018 after the Court found the Nigerian government in breach of Article 7 (1) (a) and (d) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights thereby rendering their continued detention illegal and unlawful.

The Court rejected the request by the Plaintiffs for the payment of compensation in the sum of 50 million naira for the first Applicant, Mr. Inyang and 150 million for the second Applicant, Mr. Iyeme.

A panel of the three judges of the court, led by the Vice President, Honorable Justice Yussif Kaba rejected for lack of substantiating evidence, the argument of the Applicants that the government breached Article 24 of the African Charter relating to the Right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development.

Represented by their counsels led by Noah Ajare Esq, the Plaintiffs who were sentenced by a Tribunal set up by the Military Government of Nigeria in 1995, averred that since their incarceration along with others on death row, they have been denied family visitation, unrestricted access to their lawyers and isolated during which Mr Iyeme became paralyzed.

The Applicants averred that efforts to appeal the decision of the Military Tribunal was frustrated with impossible conditions for obtaining the Certified True Copy of the judgment of the Tribunal imposed on their Counsels, a requirement of the Prerogative Board for the review of the said Judgment.

The Applicants  claimed that the Defendant had threatened to execute the Applicants without allowing them to exhaust the appeal process and that such threats constitute a violation of the Applicants right to life, due process of law ,access to justice and judicial independence, to fair hearing and to effective remedy

In addition to the payment of N50 million and N150 million as compensation to the first and second Applicants respectively, they also asked the Court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendant and/or agents from carrying out the threat to execute the Applicants and other persons on the death row of the Defendant and an order to respect the rights of the Applicants to be visited by their families as well as unrestricted access to their lawyers.

But the Defendant has argued that the failure of the Applicants to annex a file containing the documents relied on in support of their application together with a schedule listing them as provided for by Article 32(4) of the Rules of the Court renders the Application devoid of a cause.

Other members of the panel were Honorable Justices Maria Do Ceu Silva Monteiro and Friday Chijioke Nwoke.